Drama critics have always exercised considerable influence over the American theatergoer. A positive newspaper review translates into box office revenue. Thus producers have long sought to court critical favor quite apart from simply getting a good show onto the stage. In the early part of the modernist era, anonymous reviewers often "puffed" or praised a production extravagantly; some such reviews were undoubtedly "paid puffs." The practice gradually abated as bylines began to appear on drama criticism. The bylines gave the critics who wrote for prestigious newspapers a degree of celebrity.
   American drama criticism began coming into its maturity after the Civil War. Tice L. Miller's important study, Bohemians and Critics, profiles five critics of the formative generation: Henry Clapp, Jr. (1814-1875), Edward G. P. Wilkins (1829-1861), Stephen Ryder Fiske, Andrew C. Wheeler, and the preeminent William Winter. Winter represented the old school of sentimental values and flowery prose. Just as plays of psychological realism were displacing melodrama on American stages at the turn of the century, so too did fashions in dramatic criticism evolve. Important critics early in the 20th century moved toward more probing analysis. Among them were John Ranken Towse, Edward Dithmar, Alan Dale, John Corbin, James Huneker, Walter Prichard Eaton, Norman Hapgood, and Brander Matthews. Reviewing in the 1920s again reflected the spirit of the times as more hard-edged and even sometimes satirical notes were struck by critics like George Jean Nathan, Robert Benchley, John Hargis Anderson, Percy Hammond, Joseph Wood Krutch, Montrose J. Moses, Stark Young, and Alexander Woollcott. Writing for Variety, Jack Conway and Sime Silver-man employed wisecracking styles full of theatrical slang. Critics whose careers spanned the era from modernism to post-World War II theatre include Brooks Atkinson and John Mason Brown. Critics outside New York who achieved some renown include Robinson Locke and Austin Latchaw. Chicago critic Amy Leslie got away with a florid, effervescent style, while New York journalist Ada Patterson wrote thoughtfully for various publications, often focusing on women playwrights.
   The slang term for a theatre critic was "aisle sitter," as critics were given aisle seats so that they could rush from the theatre to the newspaper office in time to bang out a review for the morning edition. A critic might find himself barred from a particular theatre if he published some comment at which the theatre manager took offense. Bernheim (1964, 4) recounts an instance when Augustin Daly attempted to have the San Francisco Evening Post critic ejected from the theatre where his company was performing, because a prior review had failed to mention the star, Ada Rehan.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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